September 1, 2012
Labor Day weekend was the last hurrah of summer when I was a kid. Nowadays, itís just the one-and-half-week break.
Maybe Iím just turning into an old man yelling at kids to stay off my yard, but Iím frustrated with the ever-earlier start of the school year. My children started school on Aug. 22, one day after the Lima schoolsí pupils started their classes.
That means by the time this weekend rolled around, my children had already been to classes eight days. Those Lima schools kids had been there nine days.
Itís not uncommon. One student found that 95 percent of Ohio districts were in classes before Labor Day in the 2010-11 school year.
Maybe Iím old-fashioned, but I like the idea of kids running around outside playing in the summer evenings until thereís a little more chill in the air. Thatís not happening much these last two weeks when they come home with a pile of homework to accomplish, with 80-degree weather beckoning them outside.
Itís especially difficult in this area, as there were still county fairs to be had once school began. The Allen County Fair ran the same week as the first week of school for some kids. The Van Wert County Fair ran last week into Sunday, and the Hardin County Fair takes place this week.
Some of my best memories involve the excited eagerness of Labor Day. I was one of those kids who loved going back to school, so Labor Day was full of obsessive-compulsively checking my school supplies while watching Jerry Lewisís Labor Day MDA telethon.
Now that Iím older, I find myself wishing I could give the kids one last summer fling before school begins, perhaps a trip to a theme park or water park. Before I knew what happened, it was Aug. 22 and time to return them to the classroom.
There had been some hope for the ďsave our summerĒ campaign last year, when legislators introduced House Bill 191. The bill, primarily meant to switch from tracking the 182 school days into 1,001 total hours of instruction for grades seven through 12, originally included language about squeezing those days between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
The bill remains in the Ohio Statehouse. That language went away, as school officials railed at trying to cram the hours of instruction into that shortened timeframe. So did that nostalgic idea that itís OK to let the kids enjoy summer vacation until the first Tuesday of September.
I understand the world has changed. More schools are air-conditioned, so many districts wiped out the practical matter of it being too hot to learn there. It probably is easier to hold a childís attention at the start of the school year in late August than it is at the end of the school year in early June.
Iím also concerned about the choppiness of the start of the school year, though. My children thrive on a regular schedule. Iím not sure how much regularity they picked up from a three-day school week that first week, then a five-day school week last week, then a four-day school week this week. It will be the fifth week of the school year before they see back-to-back five-day weeks.
Mostly, though, I want to let our children be children. I want them to run and play and have fun outside. They have their entire adult lives ahead of them to be inside all summer, working hard on the task of the day.
Itís tough to tell children they should be focusing on their school work when thereís still so much summer fun left to be had.